Terry Jones has at least one sin for which he needs to be absolved.
According to a New York Times report today, one man is now dead following protests outside a NATO office in western Afghanistan over Jones’ “stunt,” as President Obama has called it, to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11 in his church’s own protest against Islam and, presumably, against the proposed mosque and community center near the Ground Zero site.
“A fringe Florida preacher may have suspended his Koran-burning, but word reached Afghanistan too late for 24-year-old Muhammed Daoud,” the report says.
And that death could have and indeed would have been avoided had Jones not gone on his hysterical, fire-branded campaign against Islam, and had the media simply ignored that which deserves no limelight. I and many other bloggers have given the story attention, but, at least in my case, I gave it attention only to condemn it and only after large media outfits had already begun courting the disastrous story.
But all this matters not for Daoud, of course, and I hope — but I highly doubt it will — prick like a stick on Jones’ conscience. Again, given what we know about this person, one willing to risk the security of his country and that of the men and women serving in Muslim-dominated countries — not to mention native Middle Easterners — to make his point, we can’t rightly pen a very positive account of the man’s ability to care for his fellow human beings.
Also late this week, in what appears to be a situation in which no one quite knows who said what, Jones is claiming that local imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, had made a deal with him to move the location of Park 51, the official name of the center. Thus, Jones would not hold the Koran burning. But Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man heading up the project, has on multiple occasions said the plan was moving forward. Here is Rauf’s column published recently in the New York Times and a statement made in an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour.
“Let’s say we moved under this current circumstance with this dialogue,” Rauf told Amanpour. “What will be the headline tomorrow in the Muslim world? ’Islam under attack in America.’ That’s the theme of it. ‘Mosque forcibly removed by whatever.’ That will feed the radicals. So diffusing terrorism is a necessity for our national security.”
It will feed the radicals indeed. And as Rauf notes in his column, the mosque and community center will not be just for Muslims, and nowhere have I read that the center’s purpose was anything other than about bringing people of different faiths together and fostering an atmosphere of mutual existence. It is only the extremists like Jones and his counterparts in the Middle East who eschew such co-existence.
“Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages,” Rauf said, later adding that the center would include separate places for prayer by which Muslims, Christians, Jews and others can approach their own respective deities.
Regarding Jones’ claim about the movement of the center’s location, Musri said Jones “stretched his words” in a news conference. My opinion: Musri may have conceded more than he was ready to concede in talks with Jones in order to avert the disaster that may have taken place had the book burning went as planned. I highly doubt that Musri overstepped his authority and said outright that the center’s location would be changed for sure. He may have simply implied something along those lines to appease Jones to curb the threat of protests or the loss of life. Or, Jones could be lying, or the truth could be somewhere in between.
Nevertheless the efforts are already too little too late for at least one person. Jones should return to the fire and brimstone pulpit from whence he came and get out of the public sphere, for outside his inflated world of angels and demons and eternal destinations — “one nice and one nasty experience,” as Christopher Hitchens puts it, — he’s a danger to civil society.